Home » Sports » Is He Replacing James? [analysis]

ZIMBABWE international midfielder Kuda Mahachi rubbed shoulders with some of world football’s biggest names yesterday as he started a journey to try and break into European football at French moneybags Monaco.

The diminutive midfielder, who turns 21 on September 29 this year, was given a run on the second day of Monaco’s pre-season training at their Turbie Training Centre in the French principality.

He was involved in a training session that featured a number of heavyweight names led by Colombian forward Radamel Falcao, back from an injury that ruled him out of the World Cup, and former Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov.

Giant Ivorian forward Lacin Traore, back from his loan spell at English Premiership side Everton that was blighted by injury, was also part of the training session yesterday which also featured club captain Eric Abidal, the former Barcelona leftback, and veteran defender Ricardo Carvalho.

Monaco, owned by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, have turned themselves into a club ready to buy their way back to success and splashed pound140 million last year to bring in a number of players, including Falcao from Atletico Madrid for a cool pound50 million, in which he receives an annual salary of pound11 million after tax.

The club also splashed pound36 million to bring Colombian midfield sensation, James Rodriguez from Portuguese side Porto, where he had won three league titles and was twice voted the best player, but given the way he has exploded at the World Cup, reports have suggested he could be on his way out of the club for a huge fee.

Although Mahachi is certainly not at the level of Rodriguez, described by Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez as belonging to the class of Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, the timing of his arrival combined with the fact that he plays on the left side of the attack, will fuel suggestions that Monaco could be giving him a chance to prove he can come in as a possible replacement for the Colombian superstar.

Even in the event that Rodriguez doesn’t move from Monaco this year, Mahachi is young enough, in the event that he makes a huge impression, for the French club to invest in him, as cover, and help him fulfil the potential they saw in him when they decided he was worth bringing to France for a trial period.

Mahachi caught the eyes of the Monaco scouts with his standout performances for the Warriors during the 2014 CHAN finals and not even his decision to sign a deal with South African Premiership champions, Mamelodi Sundowns, could deter the French club from pursuing their interests in his services and giving him a chance to prove himself.

Mahachi was loaned to Highlanders, where he played since the beginning of the domestic season, and his arrival in France, and the possibility of him playing a game or two for Monaco as part of the trials, means that he would have played for two teams even before kicking a ball at Mamelodi Sundowns.

There were four players, from the Monaco Academy, who were promoted to be part of the pre-season training with the first team and were part of the session yesterday while Mahachi’s status was described by the club, on their official website, as “essai”, a French word for “to be tested” or “to undergo trials”.

Mahachi will be part of the Monaco pre-season training this week, where players will also undergo medicals at the Turbie Training Centre, before the squad flies out on Saturday for a week-long training camp in Austria.

Monaco have one game, against local Austrian side St Veit an der Glan next Saturday, before returning to their training ground for another two-day training session and, on July 16, the club will fly out to Colombia where they will play in the Copa Euroamericana before another flight to Miami, Florida, for another training camp.

It was not clear yesterday as to whether Mahachi will be part of all that, as part of the assessment, or a decision on his future, either to sign him or to send him back to South Africa, will be made earlier than that.

Monaco will also play in the Emirates Cup in London from August 1-3.

The French club have a new coach, Portuguese gaffer Leonardo Jardin, who met players for the first time on Monday and this should give Mahachi a fair chance to make an impression as the man in charge does not carry any baggage from last season.

Jardin was brought from Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon, where he impressed in taking a young side into second place in the championship, 25 points and 18 goals better than the previous season, and also had a stint in Greece, in charge of Olympiakos, before he was surprisingly dismissed, six months into his job, even though his team led the championship race by 10 points.

A number of leading figures in local football, notably German-based former Zimbabwe international defender George Mbwando, want to see more Zimbabwean players featuring in major leagues in Europe, arguing that this will have immense benefits for the Warriors.

They say that European football, with its aanced training methods, better equipment and facilities and better coaches, provides national teams in Africa with better players and countries with more players in those leagues have better chances of playing at the World Cup.

The same group argue that it’s not a coincidence that the Warriors have faded badly at a time when most of their top players are now based in the South African Premiership.

AS Monaco Pre-Season Training Programme:

Pre-season season training began on June 30 at 17:00. The team heads to Austria for a first training camp, followed by a tour of Colombia before finishing in London at the Emirates Cup.

Goalkeepers: Caillard, Sy, Nardi

Defenders: Fabinho, Raggi, Carvalho, Isimat, Abidal, Abdennour, Toure (Academy), Kurzawa, Diallo (Academy)

Midfielders: Toulalan, Kondogbia, Obaddi, Bahamboula (Academy), Thiam (Academy), Ocampos, Dirar, Carrasco, Mahachi (essai)

Strikers: Berbatov, Falcao, Traore, Martial, Germain, Riviere

Monday 30 June — July 4: Training open to the public and media at the Turbie Training Centre, medical tests and training.

CAMP (From 5-12 July training camp in Klagenfurt, Austria)

Saturday 12 July: St Veit an der Glan (local club)

(14-16 July: Training at La Turbie.

COPA EuroAmericana

From 1-25 July in Barranquilla (Colombia)

Miami, USA (From 20-24 July)

From 29 to 31 July: Training at La Turbie.

Emirates Cup

From 1-3 August: Emirates Cup in London.

Source : The Herald